Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Songs of the Gorilla Nation: Book Review

I have to thank Julie for these two blog posts (Medical Student's Syndrome, I Hope and Why I Blog), which led me to this wonderful book: Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey through Autism, by Dawn Prince-Hughes.

I'm interested in anthropology (though my specialty was archaeology, not biological anthropology or primates), and I'm interested in autism (partially because my son's Tourette's/OCD/ADHD shares so many similarities with Asperger's syndrome), so I was pretty certain I'd find Songs of the Gorilla Nation a fascinating read. I still think about some of the things I learned from reading Temple Grandin's Animals in Translation a couple of years ago.

But I was totally unprepared for the beautiful, lyrical writing and the heart-wrenching stories (of both the gorillas and of the author herself) in Songs of the Gorilla Nation. What a fitting title. Even the organization of the book - independent from its radiant prose - well, it just blew me away. Gorgeous. There are three parts, pulling all the stories together: A Life Without Song (Prince-Hughes' childhood, teen years, and early adulthood), The Songs of the Gorilla Nation (her years observing gorillas, what they taught her, about humans and herself), and How Can I Keep from Singing?, which is an unflinching look at biology, family, and advocacy and activism, and much more.

I learned a lot, and I loved reading this. What more can you say about a book, really? Go request that your library buy it, and then buy a copy to give to someone as a gift.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Opting, Rising, Moving, Mojo-ing

Well, I'm just happy that Linda Hirshman included links to MomsRising, the Mothers Movement Online, and MojoMom's blog in her latest diatribe: "A Tale of Two Workplaces".

Go on over to 11D and read "The National Scold" for some great commentary on Hirshman's latest, and then read "We Have Met the Enemy, and She Is Us" for a fascinating perspective on reporters and E.J. Graff's piece (see here or scroll back a few days for more on the "opt-out myth").

And "The Writing on the Wall" made my day. Plus, I love Judith Stadtman Tucker's closing: In solidarity. We don't use formal closings enough anymore. I use "Regards" in some e-mails, but I miss the variety I used to see in letters and books. Affectionately. Truly.

Yr. Obedient Servant, Sandy D.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Feminism Between X's and Boomers

The most recent Carnival of Feminists (are you reading it twice a month? It's like a free magazine, with every issue edited by someone new with a different perspective, with few if any adverstisements) also had an interesting post on generational differences amongst feminists: From Onlydom to Sisterhood....Interrupted, which led me to Jessica Valenti's insightful article on The Feminist Sorority.

Add today's mothers of young kids to feminism (if they have time - ironically, I think SAH mothers probably have more time to think about gender & politics), and you get a generation of women sandwiched between the Boomers and Generations X and Y (Xoomers? Gen Bx?), who are struggling with "work/life balance". We may have only recently pitched out the old 8-track tapes from the boxes in our basement, but we can download podcasts. We might listen to Prairie Home Companion, but we read Dan Savage's column too.

Anyway, this is another reason why I think that reading the comments about parenting and careers at MojoMom (Wake Up and Smell the Money and Dialogue with Linda Hirshman) and RebelDad and Linda Hirshman has been so interesting. this week - they highlight some of our assumptions about age, gender, and the worth of various kinds of work.

And if you like history, check out my post on Lincoln: A Photobiography, by Russell Freedman over The Newbery Project.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Myths, Research and Opinions about Opting Out

It's been a while since I've posted anything about the politics of motherhood, but there have been a lot of interesting articles on it recently, both in the mainstream press and in blogs.

E.J. Graff published a thoughtful article entitled The Opt-Out Myth in the Columbia Journalism Review, which brings important work by Joan C. Williams, Jessica Manvell, and Stephanie Bornstein of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California - 'Opt Out or Pushed Out? How the Press Covers Work/Family Conflict - to a much greater audience.

There was immediate response to Graff's article from two different feminist perspectives: Linda Hirshman griped that elite women are betraying all women by not becoming feminist martyrs and sticking with their influential jobs (shame on you for even thinking of joining "the saccharine and retrograde tsunami of moral tales of sainted mommies"!), and journalist Leslie Morgan Steiner applauded Graff's work in her Washington Post column and blog: The Opt-Out Myth.

This morning I saw that Our Bodies, Our Blog (an excellent resource that I can't recommend highly enough) had a story on Graff's article - Media Myth-Making: The Moms-Go-Home Story and What It Means for Public Policy, including a link where E.J. Graff (who is affiliated with the Gender & Justice Project, at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University) includes a version of her Opt-Out article with footnotes and references. I found this almost as amazing and laudable as the original article itself. Wouldn't it be nice if more newspaper and magazine articles included this? And it is rather interesting that Linda Hirshman includes "Visiting Professor at Brandeis University" amongst her credentials. You have to wonder if Graff and Hirshman ever crossed paths on campus.

All of this was accompanied by a huge Mother Load of articles at The American Prospect (check out the web-only content there), and another fantastic Carnival of Feminists (the 34th!), at A Somewhat Old, But Capacious Handbag, which has one of my favorite blog titles of all time. Grabapple does a great riff on Graff's article in this Feminist Carnival, called The Birds and the Bees and the 401K.

It's hard to find time to blog when there's all of this to read and digest. But it is nonetheless encouraging, like our approaching spring (crocuses spotted!) and the upcoming elections.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Dark Frigate

There's something to be said for reading children's literature. It's short, much of it is well done (I'm reading the Newbery winners, after all), it usually isn't too depressing, and it is something you can discuss and share with your children. Also, the other books I've read recently are rather intense and sometimes graphic (March, by Geraldine Brooks, and Until Our Hearts Are On the Ground, edited by D. Memee Lavell-Harvard and Jeannette Corbiere Lavell), and the Newbery books offer a nice balance.

Anyway, the latest YA book I read and wrote about over at The Newbery Project is The Dark Frigate, by Charles Boardman Hawes, which won the prize in 1924. If you like Patrick O'Brian (yeah Julie@Bookworm and Sloth, I'm talking about you), there's more than a good chance you'll like this one. And it's got pirates!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Higher Power of Lucky

I've enjoyed reading all of the hoopla about The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron (this year's Newbery medal winner). The fact that I've always thought that "scrotum" is an inherently funny word makes reading about the controversy that much more entertaining.

Here are some of the blogs and articles whose commentary I most enjoyed:

People Are Stupid, Children's Literature Edition

Newbery Controversy

Statement Regarding the True Value of "Higher Power of Lucky" (by ALA)

'Scrotum' as a Children's Literary Tool, by Susan Patron

Something interesting, though - I've noticed that few of the people commenting on Lucky and Patron's scrotum use (pun intended) have actually read the book. Or if they did read the The Higher Power of Lucky, they haven't talked about anything but the first page.

Anyway, I read the book this last week and absolutely loved it. I blogged about it in detail over at The Newbery Project (see More Lucky) - and you can also read some thoughtful comments by others who have actually read the book there.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

March in Michigan

February is a pretty bleak time of year in Michigan, and until the last few days, March has been just as bad. Everyone in our family has been sick except the dog. Maybe all that rabbit poop she nibbles off the top of the snow has special vitamins in it.

I'm still reading Newbery medal winners - see The Newbery Project for my reviews of A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal, 1830-1832, by Joan A. Blos (1980 winner), and Holes, by Louis Sachar (1999 winner).

I've also enjoyed reading the most recent Carnival of Feminists, as well the Radical Michigan Blogging Carnival, and I recommend both to you.